Christophe Lambert, the New York-born French actor with a ‘timeless quality’ in his eyes, was synonymous with the style and cachet of the eighties. So much so, in fact, that when the nineties dawned, Lambert’s star was left looking a little worse for wear.
Christophe Lambert seated at a restaurant table in Los Angeles, 1989 (Photo by BRUCHET Patrick/Paris Match via Getty Images)

The French excelled in the eighties. Pastels, big shoulders, and the triumph of smart-casual played to their fashion strengths, of course, but the emphases on exaggerated urban sophistication and free-floating existential angst were so up their allée the entire decade might as well have been flying the tricolore.

While the pop music of the era was merely pretending to be French (bonjour, Nick Rhodes, Ben Volpeliere-Pierrot and all those jazzy female vocalists in Breton smocks), the films didn’t have to. For at least a brief period in the eighties, France’s cinema was at the vanguard. Le cinéma du look, as it was called, seized the zeitgeist with a mix of urban alienation (let’s not forget the constant threat of nuclear war and the reality of western industrial decline) and glossy image-making (…but these banking bonuses and shoulder pads will help us forget it all). Bequeathing a poster-friendly theme to student rooms across the continent in this short-lived parade were Jean-Jacques Beineix’s Diva, Léos Carax’s Les Amants du Pont Neuf and, by some way the most far-reaching, Luc Besson’s Subway.

A pretty silly tale of a group of Parisian buskers and thieves living in the city’s underground system, Subway’s marriage of unexplored ennui, glossy funk-rock and evening dress came at the perfect time: by 1985, the decade was fully and gloriously convinced of its own importance. Among the cast were future star Jean Reno and established diva Isabelle Adjani, but no one noticed them. We were all too busy looking at Christophe Lambert. With his bleached-blond movie-punk hair, dinner jacket and unflustered nihilism, he was the European answer to Richard Gere’s American Gigolo. The fact that his character, Fred, barely spoke only made him more perfect.


    James Medd


    January 2022

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